Mars mission now on NOVA's ScienceNOW as spacecraft nears red planet

Previous NASA missions to Mars have found ice and signs of water, states the Nova TV program; while Earthlings will soon know if the Curiosity rover survived during its “Seven Minutes of Terror.”

The PBS “Nova” TV series for August 1 featured both the concept of an endless “multiverse,” and the ScienceNOW program that asks: “Can We Make It to Mars?” With the simple premise that the “world of science is exciting,” Nova is proving that premise true with two interesting and highly relevant television programs Wednesday evening that prepare science fans for NASA’s “Curiosity” rover mission that visits the red planet late Sunday, early Monday with Nova experts explaining that it takes 14 minutes for radio signals on Mars to travel to Earth. In turn, the August 1 airing of hour 4 of “The Fabric of the Cosmos” – titled “Universe or Multiverse “at 9/8c – that explains how our universe is unique or, perhaps, “just one in an endless multiverse?” At the same time, Nova’s “ScienceNOW” episode follows at 10/9c under the title “Can We Make It To Mars?” For instance, NASA is hoping that when its Curiosity “Rover” survives its “Seven Minutes of Terror” – what’s described by NASA scientists as the time the Rover takes to go from 13,000 mph to landing on Mars – the results will be known to those here on Earth that’s a whopping 154 million miles away from Mars.

Curiosity nearing Mars with landing late Sunday

For those wishing to prepare for Curiosity’s expected landing on Mars Sunday, Aug. 5, there’s plenty of details on Nova’s PBS television website; including updates about its recent episodes; including the ScienceNOW program about Mars.

In turn, if you’ve not looked at Mars via telescope, it’s much smaller than Earth. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. It’s named after the Roman god of war, Mars, and it’s often described as the “Red Planet” as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a “reddish appearance.”

Also, the Nova TV programs explain how Mars is a “terrestrial planet” with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth.

In addition, Nova scientists point out that is the site of “Olympus Mons,” the highest known mountain within the Solar system, and of “Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons.

Nova’s programs may be hard to swallow

What better way to prepare for NASA’s Curiosity “Rover” mission to Mars this Sunday than to watch Nova television programs on PBS that make note of this major technological step forward to determine whether Mars once was suitable for life; while this Mars exploration comes at a huge price of more than $2.5 billion, states NASA, to send Curiosity to Mars over the past 8 ½ months.

In turn, this August 1 Nova TV show offering states it’s “hard to swallow,” all this cutting-edge theories suggesting “that our universe may not be the only universe. Instead, it may be just one of an infinite number of universes that make up the "multiverse." In this show, Brian Greene takes us on a tour of this brave new theory at the frontier of physics, showing what some of these alternate realities might be like. Some universes may be almost indistinguishable from our own; others may contain variations of all of us, where we exist but with different families, careers, and life stories.”

In still others, reality may be so radically different from ours as to be unrecognizable. Thus, Nova’s TV show host Brian Greene reveals why this radical new picture of the cosmos is getting serious attention from scientists. It won't be easy to prove, but if its right, our understanding of space, time, and our place in the universe will never be the same.

Curiosity set to make a fiery plunge to Mars late Sunday

Will the Curiosity “Rover” survive it’s “Seven Minutes of Terror” – that’s also the title of a viral YouTube video produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that makes the Curiosity mission that will attempt to place its “Rover” on the planet of Mars this Sunday after the “seven minutes” it takes to touch down safely on the Red Planet.

In turn, the August 1 Nova “ScienceNOW” TV program asks “can humans survive a trip to Mars and back that could take two to three years?”

This episode of ScienceNOW examines all of the perils of this journey, states a PBS overview of the program; while pointing to “deadly meteoroids, bone and muscle deterioration, and cosmic radiation.”

In turn, ScienceNOW host Neil deGrasse Tyson checks in with scientists who are developing new ways to keep astronauts alive on such a journey. Among the innovations covered are meteoroid-proof materials, new space foods and spacesuits, and novel modes of transport, such as plasma rockets. This episode also profiles young female scientist and daredevil Vandi Verma, part of the team that drives the Mars rovers on the Martian surface.”

Will man visit the Red Planet?

Nova’s “ScienceNOW” TV program states: “We would love to take a walk on the Red Planet, but can we get there alive?”
In turn, former NASA Astronaut Jerry Linenger – who flew on NASA missions from 1992-1998 – explained on ScienceNOW that, “you can go from a perfect day to a very bad day that quickly.”

Also, Linenger said: “All of a sudden, I look and see the solar panel just joosh. Instant hole, this big.” Then, cosmic rays were seen and felt with Linenger telling Nova’s “ScienceNOW” that he saw “flash and flash, flash, flash.”

In turn, the program explained how “four decades ago, humans first walked on the moon, satisfying our thirst for exploration. And now we're setting our sights on another rock out there: Mars. A trip to the Red Planet would likely cover a half a billion miles, about a thousand times farther than the Apollo missions. A roundtrip could take two or three years, and one big challenge is surviving harsh conditions, including some we don't encounter here on Earth.”

Curiosity Rover sending back details for man’s trip to Mars

The bottom line, state NASA Curiosity experts, is “Curiosity will either land safely or be destroyed” by the time NASA’s “mission control” find out if it survived this famed “Seven Minutes of Terror.”

Astronaut Jerry Linenger also told Nova’s “ScienceNOW” how a visit to Mars has many perils; including meteoroids and other technical problems such as “systems failing, possibility of a fire, possibility of losing electrical power—you can go from a perfect day to a very bad day that quickly.”

Also, there’s a price to pay if you’re an astronaut, says Linenger. “By the time I got back, I had about a 14 percent bone loss. Now that was isolated to hips, lower spine. And my strength level was probably 65 percent of what I went up there with.”

This former astronaut then explained how he “exercised two one-hour periods every day, religiously. And my personal experience is that the bone loss seems to keep going on and on.”

Mars is not a piece of cake like going to the Moon

At the same time, Linenger said: “I used to sleep upside down, piece of Velcro around me. Close my eyes, and then I would see a flash and flash, flash, flash.”

In turn, this Nova TV program explained how “the flashes are caused by cosmic rays, subatomic particles, like protons, generated by exploding stars, far off in our galaxy. Traveling close to light-speed, these high-energy particles will pierce a spaceship and its astronauts, their retinas, their brains. This doesn't happen on Earth, because our planet's atmosphere and magnetic field protect us from the constant barrage of cosmic radiation.”

Thus, Linenger said: “You go to Mars; you're going to get a very heavy radiation dose. There is no way to protect against that. You can't carry lead up into space in a wall that would be thick enough.”

Also, Linenger told “ScienceNOW,” if “you go to Mars, you're raising your risk of cancer, lifelong. But there are always innate risks to space travel, and there's no way to get around them. And you just do your best to minimize those risks and control them where you can.”

“And I don't care what the risk is,” Linenger adds. “That's something, that you actually are moving mankind forward. It is worth your life, and I'd sign up for that mission in a heartbeat.”

At the same time, Nova’s August 1 television shows offer yet another look at the real “Seven Minutes of Terror” that both the Curiosity spacecraft and later man, perhaps, will have to face when visiting that red planet Mars.

Image source of a size comparison of Earth and Mars, with the PBS “Nova” science TV programs explaining how Mars has approximately half the diameter of Earth. Photo courtesy Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars

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